Many fans of the Cincinnati Bengals have already claimed free-agent guard Joe Thuney as their own. After watching the future of the franchise, Joe Burrow, take a beating behind a woeful offensive line in 2020, WhoDey Nation has its eyes set on arguably the best lineman set to hit the open market, and rightfully so.
While family ties to the Cincinnati area and the salary cap situation the Bengals find themselves in certainly make it possible to land Thuney this offseason, the club will still have to fend off a number of competitors to acquire his services.
The good news? A good portion of the league should already be considered out of the running, as they don’t have the funds necessary to chase a player the caliber of Thuney, baring any drastic moves or sudden retirements.
In fact, according to Spotrac, 11 teams are currently projected to have negative cap space this offseason. Even for those franchises with some money to spend, there isn’t enough to draw Thuney’s attention, especially considering the bag the Bengals and a few other teams can throw his way.
Then, of course, there are the teams without a need at offensive line, albeit those are few and far between in the NFL. The Colts, wielding the second-most cap space in the league, most likely won’t be chasing Thuney. Not with Quenton Nelson under contract. This fact only further limits the competition.
However, this isn’t nearly enough for the Bengals’ front office to walk into March feeling confident they can easily land the top guard on the market. The competition for Thuney begins with the team that drafted him: The New England Patriots.
Current rumors indicate that the two parties are far apart in contract negotiations, but the fact that the Patriots offer comfort and possess north of $60M in cap space, far more than the Bengals, will keep them in the running until Thuney puts pen to paper in another city.
Bengals will have to out-bid a trio of other rebuilding teams
You can’t count out organizations that are in a similar rebuilding phase as the Bengals either. The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Los Angeles Chargers already have or are set to acquire their own young, promising signal-callers.
They will all undoubtedly be looking the ensure they stay up-right. Two of those teams rank within the top-five in terms of cap space, and the third is in the top-ten, so they have the means to do so.
Competitors hoping to keep their quarterbacks happy
Finally, you have to examine the teams with already established quarterbacks that have disappointed in recent years, in part, due to offensive line play. The two clubs that fall under this category are the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks.
The Cardinals have proven to be aggressive in surrounding Kyler Murray with a great supporting cast, already trading for wide receiver Deandre Hopkins last offseason. Pro Football Focus projects them to continue pressing the gas, predicting Thuney signs with them this offseason.
Alarms should be sounding in Seattle after Russell Wilson went on the record this offseason complaining that he’s being hit too often. In an attempt to avoid being the next franchise that has a star quarterback demanding a trade, the Seahawks could overpay for Thuney to keep Wilson happy, although they’re not in a great spot financially to do so.
This is the top competition, six teams: Patriots, Jaguars, Jets, Chargers, Cardinals, and Seahawks. If the Bengals indeed hope to land Thuney this offseason, these are the competitors that keep them up at night.